Russia has rejected a call by the United Nations to create a demilitarized zone around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station as fighting threatens Europe’s largest nuclear plant. Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday called the Russian army’s occupation of the site in southeastern Ukraine a guarantee against a “Chernobyl scenario” — a reference to the 1986 nuclear catastrophe in northern Ukraine. Russia’s rejection of the deal follows Thursday’s visit by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to Lviv, in western Ukraine, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Guterres said fighting by Russia and Ukraine near the plant risked a worldwide nuclear disaster.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant. Further deployment of forces or equipment to the site must be avoided. The area needs to be demilitarized. And we must tell it as it is: Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide.”
Today Guterres is visiting the coastal city of Odessa to inspect grain shipments, after a U.N.- and Turkey-brokered deal guaranteed safe passage to Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea.
Here in the United States, a federal judge has given the Justice Department one week to make public parts of an affidavit used by federal agents to search Donald Trump’s Florida home earlier this month. U.S. Judge Bruce Reinhart ruled Thursday that portions of the affidavit should be redacted, but that it was in the interest of the public and the media to unseal the document. The affidavit will provide clues to how the FBI established probable cause in its search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where agents recovered 11 sets of classified documents — many of them marked “top secret.”
Federal prosecutors probing Donald Trump’s role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol have sent a grand jury subpoena to the National Archives asking for all the documents it provided to the House January 6 committee. This comes amid reports the U.S. Secret Service failed to inform Capitol Police about a threat made against Speaker Nancy Pelosi until after the January 6 attack was underway. That’s according to a new report by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which cited email communications between law enforcement officials around the time of the insurrection.
In Texas, the elections administrator of Gillespie County and her entire staff have quit their posts over death threats, harassment and incidents of stalking after Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. Anissa Herrera told a local newspaper, “After the 2020 (election), I was threatened, I’ve been stalked, I’ve been called out on social media. And it’s just dangerous misinformation.” Donald Trump won Gillespie County by a 59-point margin.
Here in New York, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer has pleaded guilty to 15 felony charges of tax evasion and other illicit business practices. Allen Weisselberg admitted to a judge in Lower Manhattan Thursday he unlawfully took home nearly $1.8 million in off-the-books compensation from the Trump family business over several years. Those rent-free perks included lease payments for a luxury car, private school tuition for his grandchildren and free use of a luxury apartment overlooking Central Park. Under terms of a plea deal, Weisselberg has agreed to testify as a prosecution witness against the Trump Organization when it goes on trial in October. However, he did not agree to directly implicate Donald Trump or members of his family. Weisselberg was sentenced to five months at New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail, where he’s expected to spend as little as 100 days behind bars. To date, more than two dozen people from Trump’s inner circle have been imprisoned or face criminal indictments.
In climate news, China has deployed cloud-seeding airplanes over drought-stricken parts of the country, as hundreds of millions of people endure China’s longest heat wave on record. This week China’s Ministry of Water Resources ordered planes to drop silver iodide into the clouds over Hubei province, where prolonged heat has damaged crops and led parts of the Yangtze River to run dry. Similar scenes are playing out along rivers in Europe, including the Rhine, the Danube and the Loire in western France, where this week residents visited dry river beds that are normally covered with meters of water.
Sylviane Perroud: “It makes me sad. It makes me sad because I grew up in the village and have never seen the Loire like that. Before, we could go to the water holes over there with the children and fish, because the water was not too hot yet. Now when we go, it’s just algae and frogs. All the fish died of the heat or were eaten by the herons.”
The low river levels have impacted France’s 56 nuclear plants, many of which rely on river water to keep their reactors cool. This week French officials granted an exemption to environmental laws to allow nuclear plants to discharge hot water into already warming local rivers. This comes as Europe’s glaciers are experiencing their worst summer melt season on record. Scientists with the European Commission say this summer’s extreme drought could be the continent’s worst in 500 years.
Here in New York, police arrested 10 climate campaigners Thursday as they held a peaceful sit-in protest inside the Manhattan offices of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The activists are demanding Schumer and other Democratic leaders reverse fossil fuel-friendly concessions in the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. One provision, added to win the support of West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, fast-tracks approval of the Mountain Valley fracked gas pipeline. Another side deal limits public input on major new infrastructure projects while weakening environmental review procedures. This is activist GiGi Nieson of the group No North Brooklyn Pipeline.
GiGi Nieson: “Making side deals to advance your political agenda with Joe Manchin, who takes more fossil fuel money than any member of Congress, it’s undemocratic, unjust and racist, because it will take public voices out of the decision-making process, especially those from Black, Indigenous and people of color communities.”
The Biden administration says it will add 1.8 million doses of monkeypox vaccine to the U.S. supply as it struggles to contain the largest-ever outbreak of the viral disease outside of Africa. Last week the Food and Drug Administration approved a plan to stretch the vaccine supply by administering one-fifth of a normal dose per patient. Critics say there’s limited data showing whether the strategy will be effective. The U.S. leads the world in confirmed monkeypox cases with over 14,000 — more than a third of the worldwide total — though disease experts say the true number of infections is likely far higher. Public health data show Black men have been disproportionately affected by monkeypox but are receiving the vaccine at much lower rates than other groups.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is announcing a sweeping reorganization of her agency. Dr. Rochelle Walensky acknowledged failures in the CDC’s response to COVID-19 and promised better communication with researchers and the public. This week the Biden administration signaled it will stop buying COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests as early as this fall. White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha spoke at an event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Dr. Ashish Jha: “Getting us out of that acute emergency phase, where the U.S. government is buying the vaccines, buying the treatments, buying the diagnostic tests — we need to get out of that business over the long run. And so, my hope is that in 2023 you’re going to see the commercialization of almost all of these products. Some of it is actually going to begin this fall.”
In Colorado, a grand jury is investigating a Denver police shooting that left at least seven people injured in July. Recently released body-camera footage revealed new details of the chaos that unfolded. Denver police had reportedly previously omitted key facts from earlier descriptions of the shooting, including that the man they were pursuing, 21-year-old Jordan Waddy, was throwing away his handgun when police shot him anyway, and that Waddy had raised his hands when police first approached him. Six bystanders who were standing nearby were also wounded.
In Tennessee, a federal judge has ordered the coffee giant Starbucks to offer to rehire seven workers who were fired after they led a campaign to unionize a store in Memphis. Since Starbucks workers in Buffalo organized the chain’s first U.S. union last year, Starbucks has faced dozens of unfair labor practice charges, including over 200 violations of federal workers’ protections, stemming from retaliation claims. Click here to see our interview with union organizer Beto Sanchez, one of the Memphis 7.
In Argentina, massive anti-government protests continue denouncing worsening unemployment, poverty and skyrocketing inflation and living costs. On Wednesday, thousands of workers, union members and social justice advocates took to the streets of Buenos Aires demanding the government of President Alberto Fernández increase living wages and to do more to address the crisis.
Dina Sánchez: “Today in Argentina, it is a privilege to eat. In other words, such a fundamental right for families, especially for many women who are heads of household, today they cannot even guarantee daily milk for their children. In Argentina, there are many problems. We, from the popular movements, are proposing that we have to move forward with a universal basic wage, an income that would at least put an end to indigence in Argentina.”
In Mexico, a truth commission formed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has confirmed the involvement of federal and state authorities in the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, calling it a high-level, cover-up state crime. The commission also said there is no indication any of the students are alive. Their disappearance sparked international condemnation and mounting accusations of human rights abuses against former President Enrique Peña Nieto. The students’ families for years have expressed hope some of them had survived, often leading protests where they chanted, “You took them alive. We want them back alive.” Next month will mark Ayotzinapa’s eighth anniversary.